3 Hesperia teens, originally charged as adults, plea guilty in family court.

June 16, 2015

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

HART — The third of three Hesperia teenaged boys, initially charged with sexual assault and conspiracy to commit crimes against a classmate, pled guilty in 27th Circuit Court Family Division recently. The other two boys had already entered pleas.

Initially the three 14-year-old boys were charged as adults. See original story here.

Oceana County Prosecutor Joe Bizon said the charges stem from a March 2, 2015 investigation by the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office involving “possible wrongdoing on the part of several teens from the Hesperia area.

“The nature of the allegations required treating this situation seriously resulting in three 14 year old boys being charged as adults on March 17, 2015,” Bizon said.

“It appears there was a sleepover,” Bizon said, when the boys “concocted a plan to do something to a 14-year-old girl.” The plan was never carried out, he said, and the victim was never harmed. They went to the victim’s Newfield Township house in the middle of the night last February, Bizon said, but they became “frustrated by her family dog.”

Word of their plan spread around school, he said. “Things were being talked about,” the prosecutor said. “They agreed among themselves to do this. This goes beyond teenage shenanigans of boys being boys.”

Initially all three boys faced charges of conspiracy to commit homicide or first-degree murder; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; and conspiracy to commit first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC). For adult offenders, those charges carry maximum life sentences.

On April 20, 2015, a preliminary exam was held.  The witness was a 14 year old boy who is a special education student, Bizon said.  “This boy was very brave to come forward.  However, there were limitations in his ability to testify, and much of what was testified to differed substantially from what he was able to tell the detective during the investigation on material points.

“This young boy’s testimony resulted in some, but not all counts, being bound over for trial in circuit court.  In particular all of the sexual assault allegations were either amended or dismissed based upon his testimony. It was apparent to all involved that having to testify in open court was traumatic for this boy,  and it was uncertain if he would be able to do so again.

“The young boy’s testimony met the burden of probable cause required for a preliminary exam; however, his testimony as developed would likely not have established the elements of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt,” Bizon said.  “In particular it was unlikely that the proofs would be able to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the boys had any particular intent to harm their classmate. It was still clear that these boys had engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

As a result the boys were remanded to the 27th Circuit Court Family Division to be procedurally treated as juveniles.  On June 10 two boys entered pleas to enable the 27th Circuit Court Family Division to take jurisdiction over them as juvenile delinquents.  One boy pled to felonious assault, an offense that if committed as an adult could be punished by up to 4 years in prison.  This assault was separate from the conspiracy charges of the other two boys.  The teen who hosted the gathering at his home pled to entry without breaking, with intent to commit a larceny, an offense which if committed as an adult can be punished by up to 5 years in prison.

On Monday June 15, the last defendant also pled to entry without breaking with intent to commit a larceny.    All three boys remain in custody and are placed at the Ottawa County Youth Facility pending their dispositional hearings (sentencing), and services to be provided by the courts.

Editor’s note: The first story posted by OCP included the name of two of the defendants, because they were charged as adults. After the charges were reduced and they were sent to family court, we considered this a story involving three juveniles. All information posted in the original story remains, because that was factual at the time of posting.